Part 4 out of 6
the work is to be done.
There are many teachers who profess to cherish the spirit and to
entertain the hopes of piety, who yet make no effort whatever to extend
its influence to the hearts of their pupils. Others appeal sometimes to
religious truth merely to assist them in the government of the school.
They perhaps bring it before the minds of disobedient pupils in a vain
effort to make an impression upon the conscience of one who has done
wrong, and who can not by other means be brought to submission. But the
pupil in such cases understands, or at least he believes, that the
teacher applies to religious truth only to eke out his own authority,
and of course it produces no effect. Another teacher thinks he must, to
discharge his duty, give a certain amount, weekly, of what he considers
religious instruction. Pie accordingly appropriates a regular portion of
time to a formal lecture or exhortation, which he delivers without
regard to the mental habits of thought and feeling which prevail among
his charge. He forgets that the heart must be led, not driven to piety,
and that unless his efforts are adapted to the nature of the minds he is
acting upon, and suited to influence them, he must as certainly fail of
success as when there is a want of adaptedness between the means and the
end in any other undertaking whatever.
The arrangement which seems to me as well calculated as any for the
religious exercises of a school is this:
1. In the morning, open the school with a very short prayer, resembling
in its object and length the opening prayer in the morning at
Congregational churches. The posture which, from some considerable
experience, I would recommend at this exercise, is sitting with the head
reclined upon the desk. The prayer, besides being short, should be
simple in its language and specific in its petitions. A degree of
particularity and familiarity which would be improper elsewhere is not
only allowable here, but necessary to the production of the proper
effect. That the reader may understand to what extent I mean to be
understood to recommend this, I will subjoin a form, such as in spirit I
suppose such a prayer ought to be.
"Our Father in Heaven, who hast kindly preserved the pupils and the
teacher of this school during the past night, come and grant us a
continuance of thy protection and blessing during this day. We can not
spend the day prosperously and happily without thee. Come, then, and, be
in this school-room during this day, and help us all to be faithful and
successful in duty.
"Guide the teacher in all that he may do. Give him wisdom, and patience,
and faithfulness. May he treat all his pupils with kindness; and if any
of them should do any thing that is wrong, wilt thou help him, gently
but firmly, to endeavor to bring him back to duty. May he sympathize
with the difficulties and trials of all, and promote the present
happiness as well as the intellectual progress of all who are committed
to his care.
"Take care of the pupils too. May they spend the day pleasantly and
happily together. Wilt thou, who didst originally give us all our
powers, direct and assist us all, this day, in the use and improvement
of them. Remove difficulties from our path, and give us all fidelity and
patience in every duty. Let no one of us destroy our peace and happiness
this day by breaking any of thy commands, or encouraging our companions
in sins, or neglecting, in any respect, our duty. We ask all in the name
of our great Redeemer. Amen."
Of course the prayer of each day will be varied, unless in special cases
the teacher prefers to read some form like the above. But let every one
be _minute and particular,_ relating especially to school--to school
temptations, and trials, and difficulties. Let every one be filled with
expressions relating to school, so that it will bear upon every sentence
the impression that it is the petition of a teacher and his pupils at
the throne of grace.
2. If the pupils can sing, there may be a single verse, or sometimes two
verses, of some well-known hymn sung after the prayer at the opening of
the school. Teachers will find it much easier to introduce this practice
than it would at first be supposed. In almost every school there are
enough who can sing to begin, especially if the first experiment is made
in a recess, or before or after school; and the beginning once made, the
difficulty is over. If but few tunes are sung, a very large proportion
of the scholars will soon learn them.
3. Let there be no other regular exercise until the close of the
afternoon school. When that hour has arrived, let the teacher devote a
very short period, five minutes perhaps, to religious _instruction_,
given in various ways. At one time he may explain and illustrate some
important truth. At another, read and comment upon a very short portion
of Scripture. At another, relate an anecdote or fact which will tend to
interest the scholars in the performance of duty. The teacher should be
very careful not to imitate on these occasions the formal style of
exhortation from the pulpit. Let him use no cant and hackneyed phrases,
and never approach the subject of personal piety, or speak of such
feelings as penitence for sin, trust in God, and love for the Savior,
unless his own heart is really at the time warmed by the emotions which
he wishes to awaken in others. Children very easily detect hypocrisy.
They know very well when a parent or teacher is talking to them on
religious subjects merely as a matter of course for the sake of effect,
and such constrained and formal efforts never do any good.
Let, then, every thing which you do in reference to this subject be done
with proper regard to the character and condition of the youthful mind,
and in such a way as shall be calculated to _interest_ as well as to
_instruct_. A cold and formal exhortation, or even an apparently earnest
one, delivered in a tone of affected solemnity, will produce no good
effect. Perhaps I ought not to say it will produce _no_ good effect, for
good does sometimes result as a sort of accidental consequence from
almost any thing. I mean it will have no effectual _tendency_ to do
good. You must vary your method, too, in order to interest your pupils.
Watch their countenances when you are addressing them, and see if they
look interested. If they do not, be assured that there is something
wrong, or at least something ill-judged or inefficient in your manner of
explaining the truths which you wish to have produce an effect upon
That you may be prepared to bring moral and religious truths before
their minds in the way I have described, your own mind must take a
strong interest in this class of truths. You must habituate yourself to
look at the moral and religious aspects and relations of all that you
see and hear. When you are reading, notice such facts and remember such
narratives as you can turn to good account in this way. In the same way,
treasure up in your mind such occurrences as may come under your own
personal observation when traveling, or when mixing with society.
That the spirit and manner of these religious exercises may be the more
distinctly understood, I will give some examples.
Let us suppose, then, that the hour for closing school has come. The
books are laid aside; the room is still; the boys expect the few words
which the teacher is accustomed to address to them, and, looking up to
him, they listen to hear what he has to say.
"You may take your Bibles."
The boys, by a simultaneous movement, open their desks, and take from
them their copies of the sacred volume.
"What is the first book of the New Testament?"
"Matthew," they all answer at once.
"The second?" "Mark." "The third?" "Luke." "The next?" "John." "The
next?" "The Acts." "The next?"
Many answer, "Romans."
A few voices say faintly, and with hesitation, "First of Corinthians."
"I perceive your answers become fainter and fainter. Do you know what is
the last book of the New Testament?"
The boys answer promptly, "Revelations."
"Do you know what books are between the Acts and the book of
Some say "No, sir;" some begin to enumerate such books as occur to them,
and some, perhaps, begin to name them promptly and in their regular
"I do not mean," interrupts the teacher, "the _names_ of the books, but
the _kinds_ of books."
The boys hesitate.
"They are epistles or letters. Do you know who wrote the letters?"
"Paul," "Peter," answer many voices at once.
"Yes, there were several writers. Now the point which I wish to bring
before you is this; do you know in what order, I mean on what
principles, the books are arranged?"
"No, sir," is the universal reply.
I will tell you. First come all Paul's epistles. If you turn over the
leaves of the Testament, you will see that Paul's letters are all put
together after the book of the Acts; and what I wish you to notice is,
that they are arranged in the _order_ of _their length_. The longest
comes first, and then the next, and so on to the shortest, which is the
epistle to Philemon. This, of course, comes last--no, I am wrong in
saying it is the last of Paul's epistles; there is one more to the
Hebrews; and this comes after all the others, for there has been a good
deal of dispute whether it was really written by Paul. You will see that
his name is not at the beginning of it, as it is in his other epistles:
so it was put last.
Then comes the Epistle of James. Will you see whether it is longer than
any that come after it? The boys, after a minute's examination, answer,
"Yes, sir;" "Yes, sir."
"What comes next?"
"The epistles of Peter."
"Yes; and you will see that the longest of Peter's epistles is next in
length to that of James's; and, indeed, all his are arranged in the
order of their length."
"What comes next?"
"Yes; and they are arranged in the order of their length. Do you now
understand the principle of the arrangement of the epistles?"
"I should like to have any of you who are interested in it to try to
express this principle in a few sentences, on paper, and lay it on my
desk to-morrow, and I will read what you write. You will find it very
difficult to express it. Now you may lay aside your books. It will be
pleasanter for you if you do it silently."
Intelligent children will be interested even in so simple a point as
this--much more interested than a maturer mind, unacquainted with the
peculiarities of children, would suppose. By bringing up from time to
time some such literary inquiry as this, they will be led insensibly to
regard the Bible as opening a field for interesting intellectual
research, and will more easily be led to study it.
At another time the teacher spends his five minutes in aiming to
accomplish a very different object. I will suppose it to be one of those
afternoons when all has gone smoothly and pleasantly in school. There
has been nothing to excite strong interest or emotion; and there has
been (as every teacher knows there sometimes will be), without any
assignable cause which he can perceive, a calm, and quiet, and happy
spirit diffused over the minds and countenances of the little assembly.
His evening communication should accord with this feeling, and he should
make it the occasion to promote those pure and hallowed emotions in
which every immortal mind must find its happiness, if it is to enjoy any
When all is still, the teacher addresses his pupils as follows:
"I have nothing but a simple story to tell you to-night. It is true, and
the fact interested me very much when I witnessed it, but I do not know
that it will interest you now merely to hear it repeated. It is this:
"Last vacation, I was traveling in a remote and thinly-settled country,
among the mountains, in another state. I was riding with a gentleman on
an almost unfrequented road. Forests were all around us, and the houses
were small and very few.
"At length, as we were passing an humble and solitary dwelling, the
gentleman said to me, 'There is a young woman sick in this house; should
you like to go in and see her?' 'Yes, sir,' said I, 'very much. She can
have very few visitors, I think, in this lonely place, and if you think
she would like to see us, I should like to go.'
"We turned our horses toward the door, and as we were riding up, I
asked what was the matter with the young woman.
"'Consumption,' the gentleman replied; 'and I suppose she will not live
"At that moment we dismounted and entered the house. It was a very
pleasant summer afternoon, and the door was open. We entered, and were
received by an elderly lady, who seemed glad to see us. In one corner of
the room was a bed, on which was lying the patient whom we had come to
visit. She was pale and thin in her countenance, but there was a very
calm and happy expression beaming in her eye. I went up to her bedside,
and asked her how she did.
"I talked with her some time, and found that she was a Christian. She
did not seem to know whether she would get well again or not, and, in
fact, she did not appear to care much about it. She was evidently happy
then, and she believed that she should continue so. She had been
penitent for her sins, and had sought and obtained forgiveness, and
enjoyed, in her loneliness, not only the protection of God, but also his
presence in her heart, diffusing peace and happiness there. When I came
into the house, I said to myself, 'I pity, I am sure, a person who is
confined by sickness in this lonely place, with nothing to interest or
amuse her;' but when I came out, I said to myself, 'I do not pity her at
Never destroy the effect of such a communication as this by attempting
to follow it up with an exhortation, or with general remarks, vainly
attempting to strengthen the impression.
_Never_, do I say? Perhaps there may be some exceptions. But children
are not reached by formal exhortations; their hearts are touched and
affected in other ways. Sometimes you must reprove, sometimes you must
condemn; but indiscriminate and perpetual harangues about the guilt of
impenitence, and earnest entreaties to begin a life of piety, only
harden the hearts they are intended to soften, and consequently confirm
those who hear them in the habits of sin.
In the same way a multitude of other subjects, infinite in number and
variety, may be brought before your pupils at stated seasons for
religious instruction. It is unnecessary to give any more particular
examples, but still it may not be amiss to suggest a few general
principles, which ought to guide those who are addressing the young on
every subject, and especially on the subject of religion.
1. _Make no effort to simplify language when addressing the young._
Children always observe this, and are always displeased with it, unless
they are very young; and it is not necessary. They can understand
ordinary language well enough, if the _subject_ is within their
comprehension, and treated in a manner adapted to their powers. If you
doubt whether children can understand language, tell such a story as
this, with ardor of tone and proper gesticulation, to a child only two
or three years old:
"I saw an enormous dog in the street the other day. He was sauntering
along slowly, until he saw a huge piece of meat lying down on the
ground. He grasped it instantly between his teeth, and ran away with all
speed, until he disappeared around a corner so that I could see him no
In such a description there is a large number of words which such a
child would not understand if they stood alone, but the whole
description would be perfectly intelligible. The reason is, the
_subject_ is simple; the facts are such as a very little child would be
interested in; and the connection of each new word, in almost every
instance, explains its meaning. That is the way by which children learn
all language. They learn the meaning of words, not by definitions, but
by their connection in the sentences in which they hear them; and, by
long practice, they acquire an astonishing facility of doing this. It is
true they sometimes mistake, but not often, and the teacher of children
of almost any age need not be afraid that he shall not be understood.
There is no danger from his using the _language_ of men, if his subject,
and the manner in which he treats it, and the form and structure of his
sentences, are what they ought to be. Of course there may be cases, in
fact there often will be cases, where particular words will require
special explanation, but they will be comparatively few, and instead of
making efforts to avoid them, it will be better to let them come. The
pupils will be interested and profited by the explanation.
Perhaps some may ask what harm it will do to simplify language when
talking to children. "It certainly can do no injury," they may say, "and
it diminishes all possibility of being misunderstood." It does injury in
at least three ways:
(1.) It disgusts the young persons to whom it is addressed, and prevents
their being interested in what is said. I once met two children, twelve
years of age, who had just returned from hearing a very able discourse,
delivered before a number of Sabbath-schools assembled on some public
occasion. "How did you like the discourse?" said I.
"Very well indeed," they replied; "only," said one of them, smiling, "he
talked to us as if we were all little children."
Girls and boys, however young, never consider themselves little
children, for they can always look down upon some younger than
themselves. They are mortified when treated as though they could not
understand what is really within the reach of their faculties. They do
not like to have their powers underrated, and they are right in this
feeling. It is common to all, old and young.
(2.) Children are kept back in learning language if their teacher makes
effort to _come down,_ as it is called, to their comprehension in the
use of words. Notice that I say _in the use of words;_ for, as I shall
show presently, it is absolutely necessary to come down to the
comprehension of children in some other respects. If, however, in the
use of words, those who address children confine themselves to such
words as children already understand, how are they to make progress in
that most important of all studies, the knowledge of language? Many a
mother keeps back her child, in this way, to a degree that is hardly
conceivable, thus doing all in her power to perpetuate in the child an
ignorance of its mother tongue.
Teachers ought to make constant efforts to increase their scholars'
stock of words by using new ones from time to time, taking care to
explain them when the connection does not do it for them; so that,
instead of _coming down_ to the language of childhood, they ought rather
to go as far away from it as they can, without leaving their pupils
(3.) But perhaps the greatest evil of this practice is, it satisfies the
teacher. He thinks he addresses his pupils in the right manner, and
overlooks altogether the real peculiarities in which the power to
interest the young depends. He talks to them in simple language, and
wonders why they are not interested. He certainly is _plain_ enough. He
is vexed with them for not attending to what he says, attributing it to
their dullness or regardlessness of all that is useful or good, instead
of perceiving that the great difficulty is his own want of skill. These
three evils are sufficient to deter the teacher from the practice.
2. Present your subject, not in its _general views_, but in its _minute
details_. This is the great secret of interesting the young. Present it
in its details and in its practical exemplifications; do this with any
subject whatever, and children will always be interested.
To illustrate this, let us suppose two teachers wishing to explain to
their pupils the same subject, and taking the following opposite methods
of doing it. One, at the close of school, addresses his charge as
"The moral character of any action, that is, whether it is right or
wrong, depends upon the _motives_ with which it is performed. Men look
only at the outward conduct, but God looks at the heart. In order, now,
that any action should be pleasing to God, it is necessary it should be
performed from the motive of a desire to please him.
"Now there are a great many other motives of action which prevail among
mankind besides this right one. There is love of praise, love of money,
affection for friends, and many others."
By the time the teacher has proceeded thus far, he finds, as he looks
around the room, that the countenances of his pupils are assuming a
listless and inattentive air. One is restless in his seat, evidently
paying no attention. Another has reclined his head upon his desk, lost
in a reverie, and others are looking round the room at one another, or
at the door, restless and impatient, hoping that the dull lecture will
soon be over.
The other teacher says:
"I have thought of an experiment I might try, which would illustrate to
you a very important subject. Suppose I should call one of the boys, A,
to me, and should say to him, 'I wish you to go to your seat, and
transcribe a piece of poetry as handsomely as you can. If it is written
as well as you can possibly write it, I will give you a quarter of a
dollar. Suppose I say this to him privately, so that none of the rest of
the boys can hear, and he goes to take his seat and begins to work. You
perceive that I have presented to him a motive to exertion."
"Yes, sir," say the boys, all looking with interest at the teacher,
wondering how this experiment is going to end.
"Well, what would that motive be?"
"Money." "The quarter of a dollar." "Love of money," or perhaps other
answers, are heard from the various parts of the room.
"Yes, love of money it is called. Now suppose I should call another boy,
one with whom I was particularly acquainted, and who I should know
would make an effort to please me, and should say to him, 'For a
particular reason, I want you to copy this poetry'--giving him the
same--'I wish you to copy it handsomely, for I wish to send it away, and
have not time to copy it myself. Can you do it for me?'
"Suppose the boy should say he could, and should take it to his seat and
begin, neither of the boys knowing what the other was doing. I should
now have offered to this second boy a motive. Would it be the same with
"What was the other?"
"Love of money."
"What is this?"
The boys hesitate.
"It might be called," continues the teacher, "friendship. It is the
motive of a vast number of the actions which are performed in this
"Do you think of any other common motive of action besides love of money
"Love of honor," says one; "fear," says another.
"Yes," continues the teacher, "both these are common motives. I might,
to exhibit them, call two more boys, one after the other, and say to the
one, 'I will thank you to go and copy this piece of poetry as well as
you can. I want to send it to the school committee as a specimen of
improvement made in this school.'
"To the other I might say, 'You have been a careless boy to-day; you
have not got your lessons well. Now take your seat and copy this poetry.
Do it carefully. Unless you take pains, and do it as well as you
possibly can, I shall punish you severely before you go home.'
"How many motives have I got now? Four, I believe."
"Yes, sir," say the boys.
"Love of money, friendship, love of honor, and fear. We called the first
boy A; let us call the others B, C, and D; no, we shall remember better
to call them by the name of their motives. We will call the first M, for
money; the second, F, for friendship; the third, H, for honor; and the
last, F--we have got an F already; what shall we do? On the whole, it is
of no consequence; we will have two F's, but we will take care not to
"But there are a great many other motives entirely distinct from these.
For example, suppose I should say to a fifth boy, 'Will you copy this
piece of poetry? It belongs to one of the little boys in school: he
wants a copy of it, and I told him I would try to get some one to copy
it for him.' This motive, now, would be benevolence; that is, if the boy
who was asked to copy it was not particularly acquainted with the other,
and did it chiefly to oblige him. We will call this boy B, for
"Now suppose I call a sixth boy, and say to him, 'I have set four or
five boys to work copying this piece of poetry; now I wish you to sit
down, and see if you can not do it better than any of them. After all
are done, I will compare them, and see if yours is not the best.' This
would be trying to excite emulation. We must call this boy, then, E. But
the time I intended to devote to talking with you on this subject for
to-day is expired. Perhaps to-morrow I will take up the subject again."
The reader now will observe that the grand peculiarity of the
instructions given by this last teacher, as distinguished from those of
the first, consists in this, that the parts of the subject are presented
_in detail_, and _in particular exemplification._ In the first case, the
whole subject was dispatched in a single, general, and comprehensive
description; in the latter, it is examined minutely, one point being
brought forward at a time. The discussions are enlivened, too, by
meeting and removing such little difficulties as will naturally come up
in such an investigation. Boys and girls will take an interest in such a
lecture; they will regret to have it come to a conclusion, and will
give their attention when the subject is again brought forward on the
following day. Let us suppose the time for continuing the exercise to
have arrived. The teacher resumes the discussion thus:
"I was talking to you yesterday about the motives of action. How many
had I made?"
Some say "Four," some "Five," some "Six."
"Can you name any of them?"
The boys attempt to recollect them, and they give the names in the order
in which they accidentally occur to the various individuals. Of course
the words Fear, Emulation, Honor, Friendship, and others, come in
confused and irregular sounds from every part of the school-room.
"You do not recollect the order," says the teacher, "and it is of no
consequence, for the order I named was only accidental. Now to go on
with my account: suppose all these boys to sit down and go to writing,
each one acting under the impulse of the motive which had been presented
to him individually. But, in order to make the supposition answer my
purpose, I must add two other cases. I will imagine that one of these
boys is called away a few minutes, and leaves his paper on his desk, and
that another boy, of an ill-natured and morose disposition, happening to
pass by and see his paper, thinks he will sit down and write upon it a
few lines, just to tease and vex the one who was called away. We will
also suppose that I call another boy to me, who I have reason to believe
is a sincere Christian, and say to him, 'Here is a new duty for you to
perform this afternoon. This piece of poetry is to be copied; now do it
carefully and faithfully. You know that this morning you committed
yourself to God's care during the day; now remember that he has been
watching you all the time thus far, and that he will be noticing you all
the time you are doing this; he will be pleased if you do your duty
"The boys thus all go to writing. Now suppose a stranger should come
in, and, seeing them all busy, should say to me,
"'What are all these boys doing?'
"'They are writing.'
"'What are they writing?'
"'They are writing a piece of poetry.'
"'They seem to be very busy; they are very industrious, good boys.'
"'Oh no! it is not by any means certain that they are _good_ boys.'
"'I mean that they are good boys _now_; that they are doing right at
'_That_ is not certain; some of them are doing right and some are doing
very wrong, though they are all writing the same piece of poetry.'
The stranger would perhaps look surprised while I said this, and would
ask an explanation, and I might properly reply as follows:
'Whether the boys are at this moment doing right or wrong depends not
so much upon what they are doing as upon the feelings of the heart with
which they are doing it. I acknowledge that they are all doing the same
thing outwardly; they are all writing the same extract, and they are all
doing it attentively and carefully, but they are thinking of very
'What are they thinking of?'
'Do you see that boy?' I might say, pointing to one of them. 'His name
is M. He is writing for money. He is saying to himself all the time, "I
hope I shall get the quarter of a dollar." He is calculating what he
shall buy with it, and every good or bad letter that he makes, he is
considering the chance whether he shall succeed or fail in obtaining
'What is the next boy to him thinking of?'
'His name is B. He is copying to oblige a little fellow whom he
scarcely knows, and is trying to make his copy handsome, so as to give
him pleasure. He is thinking how gratified his schoolmate will be when
he receives it, and is forming plans to get acquainted with him.
"'Do you see that boy in the back seat? He has maliciously taken another
boy's place just to spoil his work. He knows, too, that he is breaking
the rules of the school in being out of his place, but he stays
notwithstanding, and is delighting himself with thinking how
disappointed and sad his schoolmate will be when he comes in and finds
his work spoiled by having another handwriting in it, when he was
depending on doing it all himself.'
"'I see,' the stranger might say by this time, 'that there is a great
difference among these boys; have you told me about them all?'
"'No,' I might reply, 'there are several others. I will only mention one
more. He sits in the middle of the second desk. He is writing carefully,
simply because he wishes to do his duty and please God. He thinks that
God is present, and loves him, and takes care of him, and he is obedient
and grateful in return. I do not mean that he is all the time thinking
of God, but love to him is his motive of effort.'
"Do you see now, boys, what I mean to teach you by this long
"I presume you do. Perhaps it would be difficult for you to express it
in words; I can express it in general terms thus:
"_Our characters depend, not on what we do, but on the spirit and motive
with which we do it._ What I have been saying throws light upon one
important verse in the Bible, which I should like to have read. James,
have you a Bible in your desk?"
"Will you turn to 1 Samuel, xvi., 7, and then rise and read it? Read it
loud, so that all the school can hear."
James read as follows:
"MAN LOOKETH ON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT GOD LOOKETH ON THE HEART."
This is the way to reach the intellect and the heart of the young. Go
_into detail._ Explain truth and duty, not in an abstract form, but
exhibit it _in actual and living examples._
(3.) Be very cautious how you bring in the awful sanctions of religion
to assist you directly in the discipline of your school. You will derive
a most powerful indirect assistance from the influence of religion in
the little community which you govern, but this will be through the
prevalence of its spirit in the hearts of your pupils, and not from any
assistance which you can usually derive from it in managing particular
cases of transgression. Many teachers make great mistakes in this
respect. A bad boy, who has done something openly and directly
subversive of the good order of the school, or the rights of his
companions, is called before the master, who thinks that the most
powerful weapon to wield against him is the Bible. So, while the
trembling culprit stands before him, he administers to him a reproof,
which consists of an almost ludicrous mixture of scolding, entreaty,
religious instruction, and threatening of punishment. But such an
occasion as this is no time to touch a bad boy's heart. He is steeled at
such a moment against any thing but mortification and the desire to get
out of the hands of the master, and he has an impression that the
teacher appeals to religious principles only to assist him to sustain
his own authority. Of course, religious truth, at such a time, can make
no good impression. There may be exceptions to this rule. There
doubtless are. I have found some; and every successful teacher who reads
this will probably call to mind some which have occurred in the course
of his own experience. I am only speaking of what ought to be the
general rule, which is to reserve religious truths for moments of a
different character altogether. Bring the principles of the Bible
forward when the mind is calm, when the emotions are quieted, and all
within is at rest; and in exhibiting them, be actuated, not by a desire
to make your duties of government easier, but to promote the real and
permanent happiness of your charge.
(4.) Do not be eager to draw from your pupils an expression of their
personal interest in religious truth. Lay before them, and enforce, by
all the means in your power, the principles of Christian duty, but do
not converse with them for the purpose of gratifying your curiosity in
regard to their piety, or your spiritual pride by counting up the
numbers of those who have been led to piety by your influence. Beginning
to act from Christian principle is the beginning of a new life, and it
may be an interesting subject of inquiry to you to ascertain how many of
your pupils have experienced the change; but, in many cases, it would
merely gratify curiosity to know. There is no question, too, that, in
very many instances, the faint glimmering of religious interest, which
would have kindled into a bright flame, is extinguished at once, and
perhaps forever, by the rough inquiries of a religious friend. Besides,
if you make inquiries, and form a definite opinion of your pupils, they
will know that this is your practice, and many a one will repose in the
belief that you consider him or her a Christian, and you will thus
increase the number, already unfortunately too large, of those who
maintain the form and pretenses of piety without its power; whose hearts
are filled with self-sufficiency and spiritual pride, and perhaps zeal
for the truths and external duties of religion, while the real spirit of
piety has no place there. They trust to some imaginary change, long
since passed by, and which has proved to be spurious by its failing of
its fruits. The best way--in fact, the only way--to guard against this
danger, especially with the young, is to show, by your manner of
speaking and acting on this subject at all times, that you regard a
truly religious life as the only evidence of piety, and that,
consequently, however much interest your pupils may apparently take in
religious instruction, they can not know, and you can not know, whether
Christian principle reigns within them in any other way than by
following them through life, and observing how, and with what spirit,
the various duties which devolve upon them are performed.
There are very many fallacious indications of piety, so fallacious and
so plausible that there are very few, even among intelligent Christians,
who are not often greatly deceived. "By their fruits ye shall know
them," said the Savior; a direction sufficiently plain, one would think,
and pointing to a test sufficiently easy to be applied. But it is slow
and tedious work to wait for fruits, and we accordingly seek a criterion
which will help us quicker to a result. You see your pupil serious and
thoughtful. It is well; but it is not proof of piety. You see him deeply
interested when you speak of his obligations to his Maker, and the
duties he owes to Him. This is well, but it is no proof of piety. You
know he reads his Bible daily, and offers his morning and evening
prayers. When you speak to him of God's goodness, and of his past
ingratitude, his bosom heaves with emotion, and the tear stands in his
eye. It is all well. You may hope that he is going to devote his life to
the service of God; but you can not know, you can not even believe with
any great confidence. These appearances are not piety. They are not
conclusive evidences of it. They are only, in the young, faint grounds
of hope that the genuine fruits of piety will appear.
I am aware that there are many persons so habituated to judging with
confidence of the piety of others from some such indications as I have
described, that they will think I carry my cautions to the extreme.
Perhaps I do; but the Savior said, "By their fruits ye shall know them,"
and it is safest to follow his direction.
By the word "fruits," however, our Savior unquestionably does not mean
the mere moral virtues of this life. The fruits to be looked at are the
fruits of _piety_, that is, indications of permanent attachment to the
Creator, and a desire to obey his commands. We must look for these.
There is no objection to your giving particular individuals special
instruction adapted to their wants and circumstances. You may do this by
writing or in other ways, but do not lead them to make up their minds
fully that they are Christians in such a sense as to induce them to feel
that the work is done. Let them understand that becoming a Christian is
_beginning_ a work, not _finishing_ it. Be cautious how you form an
opinion even yourself on the question of the genuineness of their piety.
Be content not to know. You will be more faithful and watchful if you
consider it uncertain, and they will be more faithful and watchful too.
(5.) Bring very fully and frequently before your pupils the practical
duties of religion in all their details, especially their duties at
home, to their parents, and to their brothers and sisters. Do not,
however, allow them to mistake morality for religion. Show them clearly
what piety is in its essence, and this you can do most successfully by
exhibiting its effects.
(6.) Finally, let me insert as the keystone of all that I have been
saying in this chapter, be sincere, and ardent, and consistent in your
own piety. The whole structure which I have been attempting to build
will tumble into ruins without this. Be constantly watchful and careful,
not only to maintain intimate communion with God, and to renew it daily
in your seasons of retirement, but to guard your conduct. Let piety
control and regulate it. Show your pupils that it makes you amiable,
patient, forbearing, benevolent in little things as well as in great
things, and your example will co-operate with your instructions, and
allure your pupils to walk in the paths which you tread. But no
clearness and faithfulness in religious teaching will atone for the
injury which a bad example will effect. Conduct speaks louder than
words, and no persons are more shrewd than the young to discover the
hollowness of empty professions, and the heartlessness of mere
pretended interest in their good.
I am aware that this book may fall into the hands of some who may take
little interest in the subject of this chapter. To such I may perhaps
owe an apology for having thus fully discussed a topic in which only a
part of my readers can be supposed to be interested. My apology is this:
It is obvious and unquestionable that we all owe allegiance to the
Supreme. It is so obvious and unquestionable as to be entirely beyond
the necessity of proof, for it is plain that nothing but such a bond of
union can keep the peace among the millions of distinct intelligences
with which the creation is filled. It is therefore the plain duty of
every man to establish that connection himself and his Maker which the
Bible requires, and to do what he can to bring others to the peace and
happiness of piety. These truths are so plain that they admit of no
discussion and no denial, and it seems to me highly unsafe for any man
to neglect or to postpone the performance of the duty which arises from
them. A still greater hazard is incurred when such a man, having forty
or fifty fellow-beings almost entirely under his influence, leads them,
by his example, away from their Maker, and so far that he must, in many
cases, hopelessly confirm the separation. With these views, I could not,
when writing on the duties of a teacher of the young, refrain from
bringing distinctly to view this which has so imperious a claim.
THE MOUNT VERNON SCHOOL.
Perhaps there is no way by which teachers can, in a given time, do more
to acquire a knowledge of their art, and an interest in it, than by
visiting each others' schools.
It is not always the case that any thing is observed by the visitor
which he can directly and wholly introduce into his own school, but what
he sees suggests to him modifications or changes, and it gives him, at
any rate, renewed strength and resolution in his work to see how similar
objects are accomplished, or similar difficulties removed by others. I
have often thought that there ought, on this account, to be far greater
freedom and frequency in the inter-change of visits than there is.
Next, however, to a visit to a school, comes the reading of a vivid
description of it. I do not mean a cold, theoretical exposition of the
general principles of its management and instruction, for these are
essentially the same in all good schools. I mean a minute account of the
plans and arrangements by which these general principles are applied.
Suppose twenty of the most successful teachers in New England would
write such a description, each of his own school, how valuable would be
the volume which should contain them!
With these views, I have concluded to devote one chapter to the
description of a school which was for several years under my care.
The account was originally prepared and _printed_, but not published,
for the purpose of distribution among the scholars, simply because this
seemed to be the easiest and surest method of making them, on their
admission to the school, acquainted with its arrangements and plans. It
is addressed, therefore, throughout to a pupil, and I preserve its
original form, as, by its being addressed to pupils, and intended to
influence them, it is an example of the mode of address and the kind of
influence recommended in this work. It was chiefly designed for new
scholars; a copy of it was presented to each on the day of her admission
to the school, and it was made her first duty to read it attentively.
[Footnote 4: The author was still connected with this school at the time
when this work was written.]
The system which it describes is one which gradually grew up in the
institution under the writer's care. The school was commenced with a
small number of pupils, and without any system or plan whatever, and the
one here described was formed insensibly and by slow degrees, through
the influence of various and accidental circumstances. I have no idea
that it is superior to the plans of government and instruction adopted
in many other schools. It is true that there must necessarily be _some_
system in every large institution; but various instructors will fall
upon different principles of organization, which will naturally be such
as are adapted to the habits of thought and manner of instruction of
their respective authors, and consequently each will be best for its own
place. While, therefore, some system--some methodical arrangement is
necessary in all schools, it is not necessary that it should be the same
in all. It is not even desirable that it should be. I consider this plan
as only one among a multitude of others, each of which will be
successful, not by the power of its intrinsic qualities, but just in
proportion to the ability and faithfulness with which it is carried into
There may be features of this plan which teachers who may read it may be
inclined to adopt. In other cases, suggestions may occur to the mind of
the reader, which may modify in some degree his present plans. Others
may merely be interested in seeing how others effect what they, by other
methods, are equally successful in effecting.
It is in these and similar ways that I have often myself been highly
benefited in visiting schools and, in reading descriptions of them, and
it is for such purposes that I insert the account here.
TO A NEW SCHOLAR ON HER ADMISSION TO THE MOUNT VERNON SCHOOL.
As a large school is necessarily somewhat complicated in its plan, and
as new scholars usually find that it requires some time and gives them
no little trouble to understand the arrangements they find in operation
here, I have concluded to write a brief description of these
arrangements, by help of which you will, I hope, the sooner feel at home
in your new place of duty. That I may be more distinct and specific, I
shall class what I have to say under separate heads.
I. YOUR PERSONAL DUTY.
Your first anxiety as you come into the school-room, and take your seat
among the busy multitude, if you are conscientiously desirous of doing
your duty, will be, lest, ignorant as you are of the whole plan and of
all the regulations of the institution, you should inadvertently do what
will be considered wrong. I wish first, then, to put you at rest on this
score. There is but one rule of this school. That you can easily keep.
You will observe on one side of my desk a clock upon the wall, and not
far from it a piece of apparatus that is probably new to you. It is a
metallic plate, upon which are marked, in gilded letters, the words
"_Study Hours."_ This is upright, but it is so attached by its lower
edge to its support by means of a hinge that it can fall over from
above, and thus be in a _horizontal_ position; or it will rest in an
_inclined_ position--_half down,_ as it is called. It is drawn up and
let down by a cord passing over a pulley. When it passes either way, its
upper part touches a bell, which gives all in the room notice of its
Now when this "_Study Card"_  as the scholars call it, is _up_, so
that the words "STUDY HOURS" are presented to the view of the school, it
is the signal for silence and study. THERE IS THEN TO BE NO
COMMUNICATION AND NO LEAVING OF SEATS EXCEPT AT THE DIRECTION OF
TEACHERS. When it is _half down,_ each scholar may leave her seat and
whisper, but she must do nothing which will disturb others. When it is
_down_, all the duties of school are suspended, and scholars are left
entirely to their liberty.
[Footnote 5: This apparatus has been previously described. See p. 47.]
As this is the only rule of the school, it deserves a little more full
explanation; for not only your progress in study, but your influence in
promoting the welfare of the school, and, consequently, your peace and
happiness while you are a member of it, will depend upon the strictness
with which you observe it.
Whenever, then, the study card goes up, and you hear the sound of its
little bell, immediately and instantaneously stop, whatever you are
saying. If you are away from your seat, go directly to it and there
remain, and forget in your own silent and solitary studies, so far as
you can, all that are around you. You will remember that all
_communication_ is forbidden. Whispering, making signs, writing upon
paper or a slate, bowing to any one, and, in fact, _every_ possible way
by which one person may have any sort of mental intercourse with
another, is wrong. A large number of the scholars take a pride and
pleasure in carrying this rule into as perfect an observance as
possible. They say that as this is the only rule with which I trouble
them, they ought certainly to observe this faithfully. I myself,
however, put it upon other ground. I am satisfied that it is better and
pleasanter for you to observe it most rigidly, if it is attempted to be
enforced at all.
You will ask, "Can not we obtain permission of you or of the teachers to
leave our seats or to whisper if it is necessary?" The answer is "No."
You must never ask permission of me or of the teachers. You can leave
seats or speak at the _direction_ of the teachers, that is, when they of
their own accord ask you to do it, but you are never to ask their
permission. If you should, and if any teachers should give you
permission, it would be of no avail. I have never given them authority
to grant any permissions of the kind.
You will then say, "Are we never, on any occasion whatever, to leave our
seats in study hours?" Yes, you are. There are two ways:
1. _At the direction of teachers._--Going to and from recitations is
considered as at the _direction_ of teachers. So, if a person is
requested by a teacher to transact any business, or is elected to a
public office, or appointed upon a committee, leaving seats or speaking,
so far as is really necessary for the accomplishing such a purpose, is
considered as at the direction of teachers, and is consequently right.
In the same manner, if a teacher should ask you individually, or give
general notice to the members of a class, to come to her seat for
private instruction, or to go to any part of the school-room for her, it
would be right to do it. The distinction, you observe, is this: the
teacher may, _of her own accord,_ direct any leaving of seats which she
may think necessary to accomplish the objects of the school. She must
not, however, _at the request of an individual,_ for the sake of her
mere private convenience, give her permission to speak or to leave her
seat. If, for example, a teacher should say to you in your class, "As
soon as you have performed a certain work you may bring it to me," you
would, in bringing it, be acting under her _direction_, and would
consequently do right. If, however, you should want a pencil, and should
ask her to give you leave to borrow it, even if she should give you
leave you would do wrong to go, for you would not be acting at her
_direction,_ but simply by her _consent_, and she has no authority to
2. The second case in which you may leave your seat is when some very
uncommon occurrence takes place, which is sufficient reason for
suspending all rules. If your neighbor is faint, you may speak to her,
and, if necessary, lead her out. If your mother or some other friend
should come into the school-room, you can go and sit with her upon the
sofa, and talk about the school. And so in many other similar cases.
Be very careful not to abuse this privilege, and make slight causes the
grounds of your exceptions. It ought to be a very clear case. If a young
lady is unwell in a trifling degree, so as to need no assistance, you
would evidently do wrong to talk to her. The rule, in fact, is very
similar to that which all well-bred people observe at church. They never
speak or leave their seats unless some really important cause, such as
sickness, requires them to break over all rules and go out. You have, in
the same manner, in really important cases, such as serious sickness in
your own case or in that of your companions, or the coming in of a
stranger, or any thing else equally extraordinary, power to lay aside
any rule, and to act as the emergency may require. In using this
discretion, however, be sure to be on the safe side. In such cases,
never ask permission. You must act on your own responsibility.
[Footnote 6: A sofa was placed against the wall, by the side of the
teachers' for the accommodation of visitors.]
_Reasons for this rule._--When the school was first established, there
was no absolute prohibition of whispering. Each scholar was allowed to
whisper in relation to her studies. They were often, very often,
enjoined to be conscientious and faithful, but, as might have been
anticipated, the experiment failed. It was almost universally the
practice to whisper more or less about subjects entirely foreign to the
business of the school. This all the scholars repeatedly acknowledged;
and they almost unanimously admitted that the good of the school
required the prohibition of all communication during certain hours. I
gave them their choice, either always to ask permission when they wished
to speak, or to have a certain time allowed for the purpose, during
which free intercommunication might be allowed to all the school, with
the understanding, however, that, out of this time, no permission should
ever be asked or granted. They very wisely chose the latter plan, and
the Study Card was constructed and put up, to mark the times of free
communication and of silent study. The card was at first down every half
hour for one or two minutes. The scholars afterward thinking that their
intellectual habits would be improved and the welfare of the school
promoted by their having a longer time for uninterrupted study, of their
own accord, without any influence from me, proposed that the card should
be down only once an hour. This plan was adopted by them by vote. I wish
it to be understood that it was not _my_ plan, but _theirs_; and that I
am at any time willing to have the Study Card down once in half an hour,
whenever a majority of the scholars, voting by ballot, desire it.
You will find that this system of having a distinct time for whispering,
when all may whisper freely, all communication being entirely excluded
at other times, will at first give you some trouble. It will be hard for
you, if you are not accustomed to it, to learn conscientiously and
faithfully to comply. Besides, at first you will often need some little
information or desire to ask for an article which you might obtain in a
moment, but which you can not innocently ask for till the card is down,
and this might keep you waiting an hour. You will, however, after a few
such instances, soon learn to make your preparations beforehand, and if
you are a girl of enlarged views and elevated feelings, you will
good-humoredly acquiesce in suffering a little inconvenience yourself
for the sake of helping to preserve those _distinct_ and well _defined_
lines by which all boundaries must be marked in a large establishment,
if order and system are to be preserved at all.
Though at first you may experience a little inconvenience, you will soon
take pleasure in the scientific strictness of the plan. It will gratify
you to observe the profound stillness of the room where a hundred are
studying. You will take pleasure in observing the sudden transition from
the silence of study hours to the joyful sounds and the animating
activity of recess when the Study Card goes down; and then when it rises
again at the close of the recess, you will be gratified to observe how
suddenly the sounds which have filled the air, and made the room so
lively a scene, are hushed into silence by the single and almost
inaudible touch of that little bell. You will take pleasure in this; for
young and old always take pleasure in the strict and rigid operation of
_system_ rather than in laxity and disorder. I am convinced, also, that
the scholars do like the operation of this plan, for I do not have to
make any efforts to sustain it. With the exception that occasionally,
usually not oftener than once in several months, I allude to the
subject, and that chiefly on account of a few careless and unfaithful
individuals, I have little to say or to do to maintain the authority of
the Study Card. Most of the scholars obey it of their own accord,
implicitly and cordially. And I believe they consider this faithful
monitor not only one of the most useful, but one of the most agreeable
friends they have. We should not only regret its services, but miss its
company if it should be taken away.
This regulation then, namely, to abstain from all communication with
one another, and from all leaving of seats, at certain times which are
marked by the position of the Study Card, is the only one which can
properly be called a _rule_ of the school. There are a great many
arrangements and plans relating to the _instruction_ of the pupils, but
no other specific _rules_ relating to _their conduct._ You are, of
course, while in the school, under the same moral obligations which rest
upon you elsewhere. You must be kind to one another, respectful to
superiors, and quiet and orderly in your deportment. You must do nothing
to encroach upon another's rights, or to interrupt and disturb your
companions in their pursuits. You must not produce disorder, or be
wasteful of the public property, or do any thing else which you might
know is in itself wrong. But you are to avoid these things, not because
there are any rules in this school against them, for there are none, but
because they are in _themselves wrong_--in all places and under all
circumstances, wrong. The universal and unchangeable principles of duty
are the same here as elsewhere. I do not make rules pointing them out,
but expect that you will, through your own conscience and moral
principle, discover and obey them.
It is wrong, for instance, for you to speak harshly or unkindly to your
companions, or to do any thing to wound their feelings unnecessarily, in
any way. But this is a universal principle of duty, not a rule of
So it is wrong for you to be rude and noisy, and thus disturb others who
are studying, or to brush by them carelessly, so as to jostle them at
their writing or derange their books. But to be careful not to do injury
to others in the reckless pursuit of our own pleasures is a universal
principle of duty, not a rule of school.
Such a case as this, for example, once occurred. A number of little
girls began to amuse themselves in recess with running about among the
desks in pursuit of one another, and they told me, in excuse for it,
when I called them to account, that they did not know that it was
"_against the rule"_.
"It is not against the rule," said I; "I have never made any rule
against running about among the desks."
"Then," asked they, "did we do wrong?"
"Do you think it would be a good plan," I inquired, "to have it a common
amusement in the recess for the girls to hunt each other among the
"No, sir," they replied, simultaneously.
"Why not? There are some reasons. I do not know, however, whether you
will have the ingenuity to think of them."
"We may start the desks from their places," said one.
"Yes," said I, "they are fastened down very slightly, so that I may
easily alter their position."
"We might upset the inkstands," said another.
"Sometimes," added a third, "we run against the scholars who are sitting
in their seats."
"It seems, then, you have ingenuity enough to discover the reasons. Why
did not these reasons prevent your doing it?"
"We did not think of them before."
"True; that is the exact state of the case. Now, when persons are so
eager to promote their own enjoyment as to forget the rights and the
comforts of others, it is _selfishness. _ Now is there any rule in this
school against selfishness?"
"You are right. There is not. But selfishness is wrong, very wrong, in
whatever form it appears, here and every where else, and that whether I
make any rules against it or not."
You will see, from this anecdote, that, though there is but one rule of
the school, I by no means intend to say that there is only _one way of
doing wrong here._ That would be very absurd. You _must not do any thing
which you may know, by proper reflection, to be in itself wrong._ This,
however, is a universal principle of duty, not a _rule_ of the Mount
Vernon School. If I should attempt to make rules which would specify and
prohibit every possible way by which you might do wrong, my laws would
be innumerable, and even then I should fail of securing my object,
unless you had the disposition to do your duty. No legislation can enact
laws as fast as a perverted ingenuity can find means to evade them.
You will perhaps ask what will be the consequence if we transgress
either the single rule of the school or any of the great principles of
duty. In other words, What are the punishments which are resorted to in
the Mount Vernon School? The answer is, there are no punishments. I do
not say that I should not, in case all other means should fail, resort
to the most decisive measures to secure obedience and subordination.
Most certainly I should do so, as it would plainly be my duty to do it.
If you should at any time be so unhappy as to violate your obligations
to yourself, to your companions, or to me--should you misimprove your
time, or exhibit an unkind or a selfish spirit, or be disrespectful or
insubordinate to your teachers, I should go frankly and openly, but
kindly to you, and endeavor to convince you of your fault. I should very
probably do this by addressing a note to you, as I suppose this would be
less unpleasant to you than a conversation. In such a case, I shall hope
that you will as frankly and openly reply, telling me whether you admit
your fault and are determined to amend, or else informing me of the
contrary. I shall wish you to be _sincere_, and then I shall know what
course to take next. But as to the consequences which may result to you
if you should persist in what is wrong, it is not necessary that you
should know them beforehand. They who wander from duty always plunge
themselves into troubles which they do not anticipate; and if you do
what, at the time you are doing it, you know to be wrong, it will not be
unjust that you should suffer the consequences, even if they were not
beforehand understood and expected. This will be the case with you all
through life, and it will be the case here.
I say it _will_ be the case here; I ought rather to say that it will be
the case should you be so unhappy as to do wrong and to persist in it.
Such persistance, however, never occurs--at least it occurs so seldom,
and at intervals so great, that every thing of the nature of punishment,
that is, the depriving a pupil of any enjoyment, or subjecting her to
any disgrace, or giving her pain in any way in consequence of her
faults, except the simple pain of awakening conscience in her bosom, is
almost entirely unknown. I hope that you will always be ready to confess
and forsake your faults, and endeavor, while you remain in school, to
improve in character, and attain, as far as possible, every moral
I ought to remark, before dismissing this topic, that I place very great
confidence in the scholars in regard to their moral conduct and
deportment, and they fully deserve it. I have no care and no trouble in
what is commonly called _the government of the school._ Neither myself
nor any one else is employed in any way in watching the scholars, or
keeping any sort of account of them. I should not at any time hesitate
to call all the teachers into an adjoining room, leaving the school
alone for half an hour, and I should be confident that, at such a time,
order, and stillness, and attention to study would prevail as much as
ever. The scholars would not look to see whether I was in my desk, but
whether the Study Card was up. The school was left in this way, half an
hour every day, during a quarter, that we might have a teachers'
meeting, and the studies went on generally quite as well, to say the
least, as when the teachers were present. One or two instances of
irregular conduct occurred. I do not now recollect precisely what they
were. They were, however, fully acknowledged and not repeated, and I
believe the scholars were generally more scrupulous and faithful then
than at other times. They would not betray the confidence reposed in
them. This plan was continued until it was found more convenient to have
the teachers' meetings in the afternoons.
When any thing wrong is done in school, I generally state the case, and
request the individuals who have done it to let me know who they are.
They inform me sometimes by notes and sometimes in conversation; but
they always inform me. The plan _always_ succeeds. The scholars all know
that there is nothing to be feared from confessing faults to me; but
that, on the other hand, it is a most direct and certain way to secure
returning peace and happiness.
I can illustrate this by describing a case which actually occurred,
though the description is not to be considered so much an accurate
account of what took place in a particular instance as an illustration
of the _general spirit and manner_ in which such cases are disposed of.
I accidentally understood that some of the younger scholars were in the
habit, during recesses and after school, of ringing the door-bell and
then running away, to amuse themselves with the perplexity of their
companions who should go to the door and find no one there. I explained
in a few words, one day, to the school, that this was wrong.
"How many," I then asked, "have ever been put to the trouble to go to
the door when the bell has thus been rung? They may rise."
A very large number of scholars stood up. Those who had done the
mischief were evidently surprised at the extent of the trouble they had
"Now," I continued, "I think all will be convinced that the trouble
which this practice has occasioned to the fifty or sixty young ladies,
who can not be expected to find amusement in such a way, is far greater
than the pleasure it can have given to the few who are young enough to
have enjoyed it. Therefore it was wrong. Do you think that the girls who
rang the bell might have known this by proper reflection?"
"Yes, sir," the school generally answered.
"I do not mean," said I, "if they had set themselves formally at work to
think about the subject, but with such a degree of reflection as ought
reasonably to be expected of little girls in the hilarity of recess and
"Yes, sir," was still the reply, but fainter than before.
"There is one way by which I might ascertain whether you were old enough
to know that this was wrong, and that is by asking those who have
refrained from doing this, because they supposed it would be wrong, to
rise. Then, if some of the youngest scholars in school should stand up,
as I have no doubt they would, it would prove that all might have known,
if they had been equally conscientious. But if I ask those to rise who
have _not_ rung the bell, I shall make known to the whole school who
they are that have done it, and I wish that the exposure of faults
should be private, unless it is _necessary_ that it should be public. I
will, therefore, not do it. I have myself, however, no doubt that all
might have known that it was wrong.
"There is," continued I, "another injury which must grow out of such a
practice. This I should not have expected the little girls could think
of. In fact, I doubt whether any in school will think of it. Can any one
tell me what it is?"
No one replied.
"I should suppose that it would lead you to disregard the bell when it
rings, and that consequently a gentleman or lady might sometimes ring in
vain, the scholars near the door saying, 'Oh, it is only the little
"Yes, sir," was heard from all parts of the room.
I found, from farther inquiry, that this had been the case, and I closed
"I am satisfied that those who have inadvertently fallen into this
practice are sorry for it, and that if I should leave it here, no more
cases of it would occur, and this is all I wish. At the same time, they
who have done this will feel more effectually relieved from the pain
which having done wrong must necessarily give them, if they individually
acknowledge it to me. I wish, therefore, that all who have thus rung the
bell in play would write me notes stating the facts. If any one does not
do it, she will punish herself severely, for she will feel for many days
to come that while her companions were willing to acknowledge their
faults, she wished to conceal and cover hers. Conscience will reproach
her bitterly for her insincerity, and, whenever she hears the sound of
the door-bell, it will remind her not only of her fault, but of what is
far worse, _her willingness to appear innocent when she was really
Before the close of the school I had eight or ten notes acknowledging
the fault, describing the circumstances of each case, and expressing
promises to do so no more.
It is by such methods as this, rather than by threatening and
punishment, that I manage the cases of discipline which from time to
time occur; but even such as this, slight as it is, occur very seldom.
Weeks and weeks sometimes elapse without one. When they do occur, they
are always easily settled by confession and reform. Sometimes I am asked
to _forgive_ the offense. But I have no power to forgive. God must
forgive you when you do wrong, or the burden must remain. My duty is to
take measures to prevent future transgression, and to lead those who
have been guilty of it to God for pardon. If they do not go to Him,
though they may satisfy me, as principal of a school, by not repeating
the offence, they must remain _unforgiven_. I can _forget_, and I do
forget. For example, in this last case I have not the slightest
recollection of any individual who was engaged in it. The evil was
entirely removed, and had it not afforded me a convenient illustration
here, perhaps I should never have thought of it again; still, it may not
yet be _forgiven._ It may seem strange that I should speak so seriously
of God's forgiveness for such a trifle as that. Does He notice a child's
ringing a door-bell in play? He notices when a child is willing to yield
to temptation to do what she knows to be wrong, and to act even in the
slightest trifle from a selfish disregard for the convenience of others.
This spirit He always notices, and though I may stop any particular form
of its exhibition, it is for Him alone to forgive it and to purify the
heart from its power. But I shall speak more particularly on this
subject under the head of Religious Instruction.
II. ORDER OF DAILY EXERCISES.
There will be given you, when you enter the school, a blank schedule, in
which the divisions of each forenoon for one week are marked, and in
which your own employments for every half hour are to be written. (A
copy of this is inserted on page 222.)
This schedule, when filled up, forms a sort of a map for the week, in
which you can readily find what are your duties for any particular
time. The following description will enable you better to understand it.
_Opening of the School._
The first thing which will call your attention as the hour for the
commencement of the school approaches in the morning is the ringing of a
bell five minutes before the time arrives by the regulator, who sits at
the curtained desk before the Study Card. One minute before the time the
bell is rung again, which is the signal for all to take their seats and
prepare for the opening of the school. When the precise moment arrives,
the Study Card is drawn up, and at the sound of its little bell, all the
scholars recline their heads upon their desks, and unite with me in a
very short prayer for God's protection and blessing during the day. I
adopted the plan of allowing the scholars to sit, because I thought it
would be pleasanter for them, and they have, in return, been generally,
so far as I know, faithful in complying with my wish that they would all
assume the posture proposed, so that the school may present the uniform
and serious aspect which is proper when we are engaged in so solemn a
duty. If you move your chair back a little, you will find the posture
not inconvenient; but the only reward you will have for faithfully
complying with the general custom is the pleasure of doing your duty,
for no one watches you, and you would not be called to account should
you neglect to conform to the usage of the school.
I hope, however, that you will conform to it. Indeed, all truly refined
and well-bred people make it a universal rule of life to conform to the
innocent religious usages of those around them, wherever they may be.
After the prayer we sing one or two verses of a hymn. The music is led
by a piano, and we wish all to join in it who can sing. The exercises
which follow are exhibited to the eye by the diagram on the next page.
MOUNT VERNON SCHOOL
SCHEDULE OF STUDIES. 1833.
| |FIRST HOUR. |SECOND HOUR| |THIRD HOUR | |FOURTH HOUR|
| |EVENING LESSONS|LANGUAGES. |G.|R.|MATHEMATICS|G.|R.|SECTIONS. |
|MONDAY | | | | | | | | | | | |
+---------+--------+------+-----+-----+--+ +-----+-----+--+ +-----------+
|TUESDAY | | | | | | | | | | | |
+---------+--------+------+-----+-----+--+ +-----+-----+--+ +-----------+
|WEDNESDAY| | | | | | | | | | | |
+---------+--------+------+-----+-----+--+ +-----+-----+--+ +-----------+
|THURSDAY | | | | | | | | | | | |
+---------+--------+------+-----+-----+--+ +-----+-----+--+ +-----------+
|FRIDAY | | | | | | | | | | | |
+---------+--------+------+-----+-----+--+ +-----+-----+--+ +-----------+
|SATURDAY | | | | | | | | | | | |
I now proceed to describe in detail the several hours, as represented
in the diagram.
_First Hour._--_Evening Lessons._
The first hour of the day, as you will see by the schedule, is marked
evening lessons, because most, though not all, of the studies assigned
to it are intended to be prepared out of school. These studies are
miscellaneous in their character, comprising Geography, History, Natural
and Intellectual Philosophy, and Natural History. This hour, like all
the other hours for study, is divided into two equal parts, some classes
reciting in the first part, and others in the second. A bell is always
rung _five minutes before_ the time for closing the recitation, to give
the teachers notice that their time is nearly expired, and then again
_at the time,_ to give notice to new classes to take their places. Thus
you will observe that five minutes before the half hour expires the bell
will ring, soon after which the classes in recitation will take their
seats. Precisely at the end of the half hour it will ring again, when
new classes will take their places. In the same manner, notice is given
five minutes before the second half of the hour expires, and so in all
the other three hours.
At the end of the first hour the Study Card will be let half down five
minutes, and you will perceive that the sound of its bell will
immediately produce a decided change in the whole aspect of the room. It
is the signal, as has been before explained, for universal permission to
whisper and to leave seats, though not for loud talking or play, so that
those who wish to continue their studies may do so without interruption.
When the five-minute period has expired the card goes up again, and its
sound immediately restores silence and order.
_Second Hour._--_Languages._ We then commence the second hour of the
school. This is devoted to the study of the languages. The Latin,
French, and English classes recite at this time. By English classes I
mean those studying the English _as a language,_ that is, classes in
Grammar, Rhetoric, and Composition. The hour is divided as the first
hour is, and the bell is rung in the same way, that is, at the close of
each half hour, and also five minutes before the close, to give the
classes notice that the time for recitation is about to expire.
_First General Exercise._
You will observe, then, that there follows upon the schedule a quarter
of an hour marked G. That initial stands for General Exercise, and when
it arrives each pupil is to lay aside her work, and attend to any
exercise which may be proposed. This quarter of an hour is appropriated
to a great variety of purposes. Sometimes I give a short and familiar
lecture on some useful subject connected with science or art, or the
principles of duty. Sometimes we have a general reading lesson.
Sometimes we turn the school into a Bible class. Again, the time is
occupied in attending to some _general_ business of the school. The bell
is rung one minute before the close of the time, and when the period
appropriated to this purpose has actually expired, the Study Card, for
the first time in the morning, is let entirely down, and the room is at
once suddenly transformed into a scene of life, and motion, and gayety.
The time for the recess is a quarter of an hour, and, as you will see,
it is marked R. on the schedule. We have various modes of amusing
ourselves, and finding exercise and recreation in recesses. Sometimes
the girls bring their battledores to school. Sometimes they have a large
number of soft balls with which they amuse themselves. A more common
amusement is marching to the music of the piano. For this purpose a set
of signals by the whistle has been devised, by which commands are
communicated to the school.
In these and similar amusements the recesses pass away, and one minute
before it expires the bell is rung to give notice of the approach of
At this signal the scholars begin to prepare for a return to the
ordinary duties of school, and when, at the full expiration of the
recess, the Study Card again goes up, silence, and attention, and order
is immediately restored.
There follows next, as you will see by reference to the schedule, an
hour marked Mathematics. It is time for studying and reciting
Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and similar studies. It is divided, as
the previous hours were, into two equal parts, and the bell is rung, as
has been described, five minutes before the close, and also precisely at
the close of each half hour.
_Second General Exercise.--Business_.
Then follow two quarter hours, appropriated like those heretofore
described, the first to a General Exercise, the second to a recess. At
the first of these the general business of the school is transacted. As
this business will probably appear new to you, and will attract your
attention, I will describe its nature and design.
At first you will observe a young lady rise at the secretary's desk to
read a journal of what was done the day before. The notices which I
gave, the arrangements I made, the subjects discussed and decided, and,
in fact, every thing important and interesting in the business or
occurrences of the preceding day, is recorded by the secretary of the
school, and read at this time. This journal ought not to be a mere dry
record of votes and business, but, as far as possible, an interesting
description, in a narrative style, of the occurrences of the day. The
secretary must keep a memorandum, and ascertain that every thing
important really finds a place in the record, but she may employ any
good writer in school to prepare, from her minutes, the full account.
After the record is read, you will observe me take from a little red
morocco wrapper which has been brought to my desk a number of narrow
slips of paper, which I am to read aloud. In most assemblies, it is
customary for any person wishing it to rise in his place and propose any
plan, or, as it is called, "make any motion" that he pleases. It would
be unpleasant for a young lady to do this in presence of a hundred
companions, and we have consequently resorted to another plan. The red
wrapper is placed in a part of the room accessible to all, and any one
who pleases writes upon a narrow slip of paper any thing she wishes to
lay before the school, and deposits it there, and at the appointed time
the whole are brought to me. These propositions are of various kinds. I
can, perhaps, best give you an idea of them by such specimens as occur
"A.B. resigns her office of copyist, as she is about to leave school."
"Proposed that a class in Botany be formed. There are many who would
like to join it."
"When will vacation commence?"
"Proposed that a music committee be appointed, so that we can have some
marching in recess."
"Proposed that school begin at nine o'clock."
"Mr. Abbott, will you have the goodness to explain to us what is meant
by the Veto Message?"
"Proposed that we have locks upon our desks."
You see that the variety is very great, and there are usually from four
or five to ten or fifteen of such papers daily. You will be at liberty
to make in this way any suggestion or inquiry, or to propose any change
you please in any part of the instruction or administration of the
school. If any thing dissatisfies you, you ought not to murmur at it in
private, or complain of it to your companions, thus injuring to no
purpose both your own peace and happiness and theirs, but you ought
immediately to bring up the subject in the way above described, that the
evil may be removed. I receive some of the most valuable suggestions in
this way from the older and most reflecting pupils. These suggestions
are read. Sometimes I decide the question that arises myself. Sometimes
I say that the pupils may decide it. Sometimes I ask their opinion and
wishes, and then, after taking them into consideration, come to a
For example, I will insert a few of these propositions, as these papers
are called, describing the way in which they would be disposed of. Most
of them are real cases.
"Mr. Abbott, the first class in Geography is so large that we have not
room in the recitation seats. Can not we have another place?"
After reading this, I should perhaps say, "The class in Geography may
rise and be counted." They rise. Those in each division are counted by
the proper officer, as will hereafter be explained, and the numbers are
reported aloud to me. It is all done in a moment.
"How many of you think you need better accommodations?"
If a majority of hands are raised, I say, "I wish the teacher of that
class would ascertain whether any other place of recitation is vacant,
or occupied by a smaller class at that time, and report the case to me."
"Proposed that we be allowed to walk upon the common in the recesses."
"I should like to have some plan formed by which you can walk on the
common in recesses, but there are difficulties. If all should go out
together, it is probable that some would be rude and noisy, and that
others would come back tardy and out of breath. Besides, as the recess
is short, so many would be in haste to prepare to go out, that there
would be a great crowd and much confusion in the ante-room and
passage-ways. I do not mention these as insuperable objections, but
only as difficulties which there must be some plan to avoid. Perhaps,
however, they can not be avoided. Do any of you think of any plan?"
I see, perhaps, two or three hands raised, and call upon the individuals
by name, and they express their opinions. One says that a part can go
out at a time. Another proposes that those who are tardy one day should
not go out again, &c.
"I think it possible that a plan can be formed on these or some such
principles. If you will appoint a committee who will prepare a plan, and
mature its details, and take charge of the execution of it, you may try
the experiment. I will allow it to go on as long as you avoid the evils
I have above alluded to."
A committee is then raised, to report in writing at the business hour of
the following day.
"Proposed that the Study Card be down every half hour."
"You may decide this question yourselves. That you may vote more freely,
I wish you to vote by ballot. The boxes will be open during the next
recess. The vote-receivers will write the question and place it upon the
boxes. All who feel interested in the subject may carry in their votes,
Aye or Nay. When the result is reported to me I will read it to the
In this and similar ways the various business brought up is disposed of.
This custom is useful to the scholars, for it exercises and strengthens
their judgment and their reflecting powers more than almost any thing
besides; so that, if interesting them in this way in the management of
the school were of no benefit to me, I should retain the practice as
most valuable to them. But it is most useful to me and to the school. I
think that nothing has contributed more to its prosperity than the
active interest which the scholars have always taken in its concerns,
and the assistance they have rendered me in carrying my plans into
You will observe that in transacting this business very little is
actually done by myself, except making the ultimate decision. All the
details of business are assigned to teachers, or to officers and
committees appointed for the purpose. By this means we dispatch business
very rapidly. The system of offices will be explained in another place;
but I may say here that all appointments and elections are made in this
quarter hour, and by means of the assistance of these officers the
transaction of business is so facilitated that much more can sometimes
be accomplished than you would suppose possible. I consider this period
as one of the most important in the whole morning.
After the expiration of the quarter hour above described, the Study Card
is dropped, and a recess succeeds.
In all the former part of the day the scholars are divided into
_classes_, according to their proficiency in particular branches of
study, and they resort to their _recitations_ for _instruction. _ They
now are divided into six _sections_, as we call them, and placed under
the care of _superintendents_, not for instruction, but for what may be
called supervision. _Teaching_ a pupil is not all that is necessary to
be done for her in school. There are many other things to be attended
to, such as supplying her with the various articles necessary for her
use, seeing that her desk is convenient, that her time is well arranged,
that she has not too much to do nor too little, and that no difficulty
which can be removed obstructs her progress in study or her happiness in
school. The last hour is appropriated to this purpose, with the
understanding, however, that such a portion of it as is not wanted by
the superintendent is to be spent in study. You will see, then, when the
last hour arrives, that all the scholars go in various directions to the
meetings of their respective sections. Here they remain as long as the
superintendent retains them. Sometimes they adjourn almost immediately,
perhaps after having simply attended to the distribution of pens for the
next day; at other times they remain during the hour, attending to such
exercises as the superintendent may plan. The design, however, and
nature of this whole arrangement I shall explain more fully in another
_Close of the School._
As the end of the hour approaches, five minutes' notice is given by the
bell, and when the time arrives the Study Card is half dropped for a
moment before the closing exercises. When it rises again the room is
restored to silence and order. We then sing a verse or two of a hymn,
and commend ourselves to God's protection in a short prayer. As the
scholars raise their heads from the posture of reverence which they have
assumed, they pause a moment till the regulator lets down the Study
Card, and the sound of its bell is the signal that our duties at school
are ended for the day.
III. INSTRUCTION AND SUPERVISION OF PUPILS.
For the instruction of the pupils the school is divided into _classes_,
and for their general supervision into _sections_, as has been intimated
under the preceding caption. The head of a _class_ is called a
_teacher_, and the head of a _section_ a _superintendent_. The same
individual may be both the teacher of a class and the superintendent of
a section. The two offices are, however, entirely distinct in their
nature and design. As you will perceive by recalling to mind the daily
order of exercises, the classes meet and recite during the first three
hours of the school, and the sections assemble on the fourth and last.
We shall give each a separate description.
The object of the division into classes is _instruction_. Whenever it is
desirable that several individuals should pursue a particular study, a
list of their names is made out, a book selected, a time for recitation
assigned, a teacher appointed, and the exercises begin. In this way a
large number of classes have been formed, and the wishes of parents, or
the opinion of the principal, and, in many cases, that of the pupil,
determines how many and what shall be assigned to each individual. A
list of these classes, with the average age of the members, the name of
the teacher, and the time of recitation, is posted in a conspicuous
place, and public notice is given whenever a new class is formed. You
will therefore have the opportunity to know all the arrangements of
school in this respect, and I wish you to exercise your own judgment and
discretion a great deal in regard to your studies. I do not mean I
expect you to _decide_, but to _reflect_ upon them. Look at the list,
and consider what are most useful for you. Propose to me or to your
parents changes, whenever you think they are necessary; and when you
finish one study, reflect carefully, yourself, on the question what you
shall next commence.
The scholars prepare their lessons when they please. They are expected
to be present and prepared at the time of recitation, but they make the
preparation when it is most convenient. The more methodical and
systematic of the young ladies mark the times of _study_ as well as of
_recitation_ upon their schedules, so that the employment of their whole
time at school is regulated by a systematic plan. You will observe, too,
that by this plan of having a great many classes reciting through the
first three hours of the morning, every pupil can be employed as much or
as little as her parents desire. In a case of ill health, she may, as
has often been done in such cases at the request of parents, join one or
two classes only, and occupy the whole forenoon in preparing for them,
and be entirely free from school duties at home. Or she may, as is much
more frequently the case, choose to join a great many classes, so as to
fill up, perhaps, her whole schedule with recitations, in which case she
must prepare all her lessons at home. It is the duty of teachers to take
care, however, when a pupil pleads want of time as a reason for being
unprepared in any lesson, that the case is fully examined, in order that
it may be ascertained whether the individual has joined too many
classes, in which case some one should be dropped, and thus the time and
the employments of each individual should be so adjusted as to give her
constant occupation _in school,_ and as much more as her parents may
desire. By this plan of the classes, each scholar advances just as
rapidly in her studies as her time, and talents, and health will allow.
No one is kept back by the rest. Each class goes on regularly and
systematically, all its members keeping exactly together in that study;
but the various members of it will have joined a greater or less number
of other classes, according to their age, or abilities, or progress in
study, so that all will or may have full employment for their time.
When you first enter the school, you will, for a day or two, be assigned
to but few classes, for your mind will be distracted by the excitement
of new scenes and pursuits, and the intellectual effort necessary for
_joining_ a class is greater than that requisite for _going on_ with it
after being once under way. After a few days you will come to me and
say, perhaps (for this is ordinarily the process),
"Mr. Abbott, I think I have time for some more studies."
"I will thank you to bring me your schedule," I say in reply, "so that I
can see what you have now to do."
By glancing my eye over the schedule in such a case, I see in a moment
what duties have been already assigned you, and from my general
schedule, containing all the studies of the school, I select what would
be most suitable for you after conferring with you about your past
pursuits, and your own wishes or those of your parents in regard to your
future course. Additions are thus made until your time is fully
The manner of recitation in the classes is almost boundlessly varied.
The design is not to have you commit to memory what the book contains,
but to understand and digest it--to incorporate it fully into your own
mind, that it may come up in future life in such a form as you wish it
for use. Do not then, in ordinary cases, endeavor to fix _words_, but
_ideas_ in your minds. Conceive clearly--paint distinctly to your
imagination what is described--contemplate facts in all their bearings
and relations, and thus endeavor to exercise the judgment, and the
thinking and reasoning powers, rather than the mere memory, upon the
subjects which will come before you.
In describing the order of daily exercises, I alluded to the _sections_
which assemble in the last hour of the school. It is necessary that I
should fully describe the system of sections, as it constitutes a very
important part of the plan of the school.
Besides giving the scholars the necessary intellectual instruction,
there are, as I have already remarked, a great many other points which
must receive attention in order to promote their progress, and to secure
the regular operation and general welfare of the school. These various
points have something common in their nature, but it is difficult to
give them a common name. They are such as supplying the pupils with pens
and paper, and stationery of other kinds; becoming acquainted with each
individual; ascertaining that she has enough and not too much to do;
arranging her work so that no one of her duties shall interfere with
another; assisting her to discover and correct her faults, and removing
any sources of difficulty or causes of discontent which may gradually
come in her way. These, and a multitude of similar points, constituting
what may be called the general _administration_ of the school, become,
when the number of pupils is large, a most important branch of the
To accomplish these objects more effectually, the school is divided into
six sections, arranged, not according to proficiency in particular
studies, as the several classes are, but according to _age and general
maturity of mind._ Each one of these sections is assigned to the care of
a superintendent. These superintendents, it is true, during most of
school hours, are also teachers. Their duties, however, as _Teachers_
and as _Superintendents_, are entirely distinct. I shall briefly
enumerate the duties which devolve upon her in the latter capacity.
1. A superintendent ought to prepare an exact list of the members of her
section, and to become intimately acquainted with them, so as to be as
far as possible their friend and confidante, and to feel a stronger
interest in their progress in study and their happiness in school, and a
greater personal attachment to them than to any other scholars.
2. She is to superintend the preparation of their schedules; to see that
each one has enough and not too much to do, by making known to me the
necessity of a change, where such necessity exists; to see that the
schedules are submitted to the parents, and that their opinion or
suggestions, if they wish to make any, are reported to me.
3. She is to take care that all the daily wants of her section are
supplied--that all have pens and paper, and desks of suitable height. If
any are new scholars, she ought to interest herself in assisting them to
become acquainted in school; if they are friendless and alone, to find
companions for them, and to endeavor in every way to make their time
pass pleasantly and happily.
4. To watch the characters of the members of her section. To inquire of
their several teachers as to the progress they make in study, and the
faithfulness and punctuality with which they prepare their lessons. She
ought to ascertain whether they are punctual at school and regular in
their habits--whether their desks are neat and well arranged, and their
exercises carefully executed. She ought to correct, through her own
influence, any evils of this kind she may find, or else immediately to
refer the cases where this can not be done to me.
The better and the more pleasantly to accomplish the object of exerting
a favorable influence upon the characters of the members of their
section, the superintendents ought often to bring up subjects connected
with moral and religious duty in section meetings. This may be done in
the form of subjects assigned for composition, or proposed for free
discussion in writing or conversation, or the superintendents may write
themselves, and read to the section the instructions they wish to give.
When subjects for written composition are thus assigned, they should be
so presented to the pupils as to lead their minds to a very practical
mode of regarding them. For example, instead of simply assigning the
subject _Truth_ as the theme of an abstract moral essay, bring up
definite points of a practical character, such especially as are
connected with the trials and temptations of early life. "I wish you
would all give me your opinions," the teacher might say in such a case,
"on the question, What is the most frequent inducement that leads
children to tell falsehoods? Also, do you think it is right to tell
untruths to very little children, as many persons do, or to people who
are sick? Also, whether it would be right to tell a falsehood to an
insane man in order to manage him?"
Sometimes, instead of assigning a subject of composition _verbally_, the
superintendent exhibits an engraving, and the several members of the
class then write any thing they please which is suggested to them by
the engraving. For example, suppose the picture thus exhibited were to
represent a girl sewing in an attic. The compositions to which it would
give rise might be very various. One pupil would perhaps simply give an
account of the picture itself, describing the arrangements of the room,
and specifying the particular articles of furniture contained in it.
Another would give a soliloquy supposed to be spoken by the sewing-girl
as she sits at her work. Another would narrate the history of her life,
of course an imaginary one. Another would write an essay on the
advantages of industry and independence.
This is a very good way of assigning subjects of composition, and, if
well managed, it may be the means of awakening a great interest in
writing among almost all the pupils of a school.
5. Though the superintendents, as such, have, necessarily speaking, no
_teaching_ to do, still they ought particularly to secure the progress
of every pupil in what may be called the _essential_ studies, such as
reading, writing, and spelling. For this purpose, they either see that
their pupils are going on successfully in classes in school in these
branches, or they may attend to them in the section, provided that they
never allow such instruction to interfere with their more appropriate
and important duties.
In a word, the superintendents are to consider the members of their
sections as pupils confided to their care, and they are not merely to
discharge mechanically any mere routine of duty, such as can be here
pointed out, but to exert all their powers, their ingenuity, their
knowledge of human character, their judgment and discretion, in every
way, to secure for each of those committed to their care the highest
benefits which the institution to which they belong can afford. They are
to keep a careful and faithful record of their plans and of the history
of their respective sections, and to endeavor as faithfully and as
diligently to advance the interests of the members of them as if the
sections were separate and independent schools of their own.
A great responsibility is thus evidently intrusted to them, but not a great
deal of _power_. They ought not to make changes, except in very plain
cases, without referring the subject to me. They ought not to make rash
experiments, or even to try many new plans, without first obtaining my
approval of them. They ought to refer all cases which they can not easily
manage to my care. They ought to understand the distinction between _seeing
that a thing is done_ and _doing it_. For example, if a superintendent
thinks that one of her section is in too high a class in Arithmetic, her
duty is not to undertake, by her own authority, to remove her to a lower
one, for, as superintendent, she has no authority over Arithmetic classes,
nor should she go to the opposite extreme of saying, "I have no authority
over Arithmetic classes, and therefore I have nothing to do with this
case." She ought to go to the teacher of the class to which her pupil
had been unwisely assigned, converse with her, obtain her opinion, then
find some other class more suited to her attainments, and after fully
ascertaining all the facts in the case, bring them to me, that I may
make the change. This is _superintendence--looking over_ the condition
and progress of the scholar. The superintendents have thus great
responsibility, and yet, comparatively, little power. They accomplish a
great deal of good, and, in its ordinary course, it is by their direct
personal efforts; but in making changes, and remedying defects and
evils, they act generally in a different way.
The last hour of school is devoted to the sections. No classes recite
then, but the sections meet, if the superintendents wish, and attend to
such exercises as they provide. Each section has its own organization,
its own officers and plans. These arrangements of course vary in their
character according to the ingenuity and enterprise of the
superintendents, and more especially according to the talents and
intellectual ardor of the members of the section.
The two upper sections are called senior, the next two middle, and the
two younger junior. The senior sections are distinguished by using paper
for section purposes with a light blue tinge. To the middle sections is
assigned a light straw color; and to the junior, pink. These colors are
used for the schedules of the members, and for the records and other
documents of the section.
This account, though it is brief, will be sufficient to explain to you
the general principles of the plan. You will soon become acquainted with
the exercises and arrangements of the particular section to which you
will be assigned, and by taking an active interest in them, and
endeavoring to cooperate with the superintendent in all her measures and
to comply with her wishes, you will very materially add to her
happiness, and do your part toward elevating the character of the
circle to which you will belong.
In consequence of the disposition early manifested by the scholars to
render me every assistance in their power in carrying into effect the
plans of the school and promoting its prosperity, I gradually adopted
the plan of assigning to various officers and committees, a number of
specific duties relating to the general business of the school. These
officers have gradually multiplied as the school has increased and as
business has accumulated. The system has, from time to time, been
revised, condensed, and simplified, and at the present time it is thus
arranged. The particular duties of each officer are minutely described
to the individuals themselves at the time of their election; all I
intend here is to give a general view of the plan, such as is necessary
for the scholars at large.
There are, then, _five departments_ of business intrusted to officers of
the school. The names of the officers, and a brief exposition of their
duties, are as follows:
[I omit the particular explanation of the duties of the officers, as the
arrangement must vary in different schools, and the details of any one
plan can only be useful in the school-room to which it belongs. It will
be sufficient to name the officers of each department, with their
duties, in general terms.]
1. REGULATORS.--To assist in the ordinary routine of business in school:
ringing the bells; managing the Study Card; distributing and collecting
papers; counting votes, &c.
2. SECRETARIES.--Keeping the records, and executing writing of various
3. ACCOUNTANTS.--Keeping a register of the scholars, and various other
duties connected with the accounts.
4. LIBRARIANS.--To take charge of books and stationery.
5. CURATORS.--To secure neatness and good order in the apartments.
The secretaries and accountants are appointed by the principal, and
will generally be chosen from the teachers. The first in each of the
other departments are chosen by ballot, by the scholars. Each one thus
chosen nominates the second in her department, and they two the
assistants. These nominations must be approved at a teachers' meeting;
for, if a scholar is inattentive to her studies, disorderly in her desk,
or careless and troublesome in her manners, she evidently ought not to
be appointed to public office. No person can hold an office in two of
these departments. She can, if she pleases, however, resign one to
accept another. Each of these departments ought often to assemble and
consult together, and form plans for carrying into effect with greater
efficiency the objects intrusted to them. They are to keep a record of
all their proceedings, the head of the department acting as secretary
for this purpose.
The following may be given as an example of the manner in which business
is transacted by means of these officers. On the day that the above
description of their duties was written, I wished for a sort of
directory to assist the collector employed to receive payments for the
bills, and, to obtain it, I took the following steps:
At the business quarter hour I issued the following order:
"Before the close of school, I wish the distributors to leave upon each
of the desks a piece of paper" (the size I described). "It is for a
purpose which I shall then explain."
Accordingly, at some leisure moment before the close of school, each one
of the regulators went with her box to the stationery shelves, which you
will see in the corners of the room, where a supply of paper of all the
various sizes used in school is kept, and, taking out a sufficient
number, they supplied all the desks in their respective divisions.
When the time for closing school arrived, I requested each young lady to
write the name of her parent or guardian upon the paper, and opposite
to it his place of business. This was done in a minute or two.
"All those whose parent's or guardian's name begins with a letter above
_m_ may rise."
"The distributors may collect the papers."
The officers then passed round in regular order, each through her own
division, and collected the papers.